The “Experts” say the Rockies cannot stay in the race. Are they right?

Are We Buying the Rockies as a long-term contender?

If you watch either MLB network or ESPN’s baseball coverage or go the sites of ESPN, mlb.com and foxsports.com/mlb, you will find this question being asked right now of two teams: the Miami Marlins and the Colorado Rockies. For whatever reason the Brewers have passed from surprise to legit already in the season (tied with the Rockies for most wins will do that), largely because of high-performing pitching staff and solid pen. That seem to be what matters.

The Marlins have the best home record in baseball (and worst road record strangely enough) having lost only 5 at home and won only 2 on the road. The Rockies experienced Miami’s excellent home play, as what could easily have been a 3-1 Rockies series win was a 1-3 trip and even the one was by the barest of margins. The Marlins have arguably the best pitcher in the NL, certainly the best righty, in Fernandez. He is only 21 and already knows not just how to blow guys away, but enough of the art of pitching to be a hard case for any team – the Rockies managed the sole run on CarGo blast that impressed even Fernandez, but otherwise were totally handcuffed by the Marlins. They have arguably one of the 5 best players in baseball in Giancarlo Stanton, who is still only 23 but seems to have been playing forever. Finally healthy baseball is seeing all 5 of his tools, especially his power. The talk now is that if management is willing to spend on the two remaining free-agents after the draft (when no picks are part of the deal), add in Drew and Morales, that this team would be even with the Nationals and Braves. So…there is a sense with that great staff (Fernandez is just one, as Evolidi seems to throw pure gas and a couple of their other starters are also pretty good.

But what of oru beloved Rockies? As soon as they talk about the Marlins they talk about the Rockies as if they are a pure fluke. Why are most of the writers and know-it-alls not buying the Rockies? Here are the six most common reasons given why the Rox are pretenders not contenders.

1)       Their offense is pure Coors. Yes they are the 27 Yankees at home but the the 2005 Tigers on the road.

2)      Their pitching is weak.

3)      Their pitching does not strike out enough guys.

4)      They don’t take enough walks.

5)      You cannot win playing half your games at Coors.

6)      They will get hurt and they have no depth.

 

So, with those six statements as why they are pretenders, what do we think? Well….

 

Okay, so there is their argument. Is it valid? We can look at point by point:

1)      Yes, this offense at Coors is other-worldly right now, and the weather still has not been really great for offense. When you have home OPS of 1.240 (Blackmon), .936 (Arenado), 1.775 (Tulo), .987 (Morneau), 1.273 (Cuddy), 1.098 (Dickerson), and 1.055 (Barnes) you are playing amazingly. I don’t think that a team has to apologize for hitting well at home, as most team in fact do. Yes, we are extreme, but so much of hitting is confidence – and when a guy like Tulo is playing like roid-ed up Barry Bonds, you get shared confidence.  But there are two things here to remember:

  1. The other teams also play at Coors. And we see not only that Rockies pitchers are pitching well at Coors, but they have been better at home than the road. The current NL average for runs is 4.54. Here are the runs allowed by Rockies pitching: 2,4,5 (L – Anderson to DBack), 1, 15(L – Morales and Lopez to White Sox), 4, 1,1,10 (L – Nicasio to Phillies), 2,2,12( L- Chatwood and Bettis to Giants), 4,3,10 (W,  Morales), 5 (L- Chacin), 2, 1. So as we look at that they have pitched 12 of the 18 games at Coors below the league average (and the league average includes the Rockies of course. Yes, the Rockies have had 4 “Coors Field” games in there as well – winning one of those. But we also see Dillon Gee, Wade Miley, and Jose Quintana – not exactly Kershaw and Fernandez, hold the Rockies to 3 runs or less.  Coors Field is an offensive park – of course – but it is not like this is 2012 – where they had a 5.97 ERA at home (I cannot find the ERA of opponents that year, but I know It was over 5 and the Rockies had an OPS of .867).  Hopefully the weather stays normal and this doesn’t become 2012. But the point is that Coors on the average day, can play fairly normal – 2/3 of Rockies pitching performances are better than league average. Yes, when it goes big it goes big, like the 12-10 Giants game. But its not like that doesn’t happen elsewhere. The Rockies are just a good hitting team and have learned how to win at home decent pitching.
  2. The Rockies are playing a fairly complete game on the road as well. Yes, it is early but the 9-9 record on the road is quite remarkable. Yes, there is a huge gulf on some of the home/road splits – like .880 difference between Tulo’s home and road. Or the .612 of Cuddy. But there are still good OPS in a year where offense is down across the league.  As I looked across the various games, the Rockies had good hitting on road – in terms of batting averages, even playing against tough pitching and in tough parks. The averages of the players while lower on the road than home, is really not that big a differences. What does happen is power and run scoring goes down on the road. As noted no homers by Blackmon and Arenado dose impact the team. We know that both those guys will hit homers on the road – Blackmon hitting the longest homer in Baltimore in 2013, so the power is there. It just has not happened yet. The offense on the road will climb, probably on this trip as they play in parks where the power is going to start showing. Repeat – this is not an offense that has to depend on Coors Field. A team throwing out Arenado, Tulo, CarGo, Morneau, Cuddy, and Rosario will have power and score runs on the road.

2)      The Pitching is weak. Have we ever not heard this about the Rockies, even year’s like 2009 when they have a pretty good rotation?  I get so angry because it shows you that the “experts” really do not pay attention (or really care) about the actual team the Rockies have on the field. No, this is not the top set of starters in the National League. But this is not the 2012 Rockies. It is not even the 2013 team.  Jorge De La Rosa is a 2X 16 game winner, who has a sub 3 ERA his last 14 days (2.84). He started really poorly, yes, but has pitched well and is so close to being a pitcher no team wants to face. Then you have Jordan Lyles, who is finally at all of 23, fulfilling his potential, and has a road ERA of 3.91 and a home ERA of 1.25.  No, he probably isn’t going to throw a sub 3 all year long at Coors, but this is not some scrub who is having a flash-in-the-pan moment, but a former top 25 prospect fulfilling promise. The two other guys who have been pitching the most innings, 27 year-old Juan Nicasio and 28 year-old Franklin Morales, are not elite starters. Nicasio, especially at home, has been good but is a 4 ERA at best starter. Morales, a former top 10 prospect, is pitching over 5, but has been either really good, with 1 ER nights or really bad.  The current 5th starter is Julys Chacin, last year’s ace, and the best most polished pitcher the team has. This is a #2 at least on most teams when he is healthy. Coming in hurt at spring training and that hurt. His first game was bad – poor control and no ground-balls. But by the end of the year we should see a guy who is able to give this team a low-3 ERA. It just may take til-June before we see that pitcher. They also have two pretty good arms on the 60-day DL – Brett Anderson is a former #1 in Oakland cursed with bad luck but who should be there to help the team in summer. Tyler Chatwood, who had a decent rookie year in 2011 for Anahiem and a pretty good 2013 with a low 3 ERA for the Rox. If healthy he is a good #3 pitcher for any team. But he his hurt as is Anderson – we can only hope that this team can get good pitching until they are healthy.

So they are right, this team stinks in terms of pitching. Well, the thing is they don’t. They have gotten 17 quality starts in 36 game, not great but not bad. Over the course of a season though this is good enough, especially with the hitting. And the 4.09 overall ERA is not bad. It is not elite but the Rox are pitching “good enough” alongside their hitting. And as fans and an organization, we have to believe DLR is going to pitch better. A team with Chacin, DLR and Lyles pitching at their expected performance, is not a bad 1-2-3. What they need is 4 and 5s who can give this team 6 innings of good 3-4ER pitching. Can Nicasio and Morales do that? Both are more thank capable.  They thought they saw progress in Nicasio, who has to get another pitch regularly over the plate and he becomes a solid #4. Morales still has ace stuff when he has enough control and the new cutter buries in on righties. But….we don’t see that every night, which is why he was in the pen and is a #5 despite having some of the best performances so far for this team. This team with the big 3 and a healthy Anderson and Chatwood…that is a very good rotation. But we might see some others as well from the farm system. So, are they right? Well, we will see, but this team pitches on most nights better than the “experts” are aware of – they just see the 12-1 score and think there is bad pitching…but no, it’s the Rox going 12. Yes, there are big nights, but they are fewer than the “experts” know.

3)      So, the big issue that so many have with the Rockies pitching staff is that they don’t strike out enough hitters. Really, that is a big deal? Well, this is where the Coors effect and the thinking of Mark Wiley are going into the face of the “experts.” This team has stock-piled pitchers who throw low – who throw sinkers and strikes lower-half of the body. Yes, that is an invite to hitters to get hits, especially at Coors with its fast infield. But this is also why the team has the infield and outfield it has. There are no poor fielders who are going to get 500 ABs for this team (okay, maybe Cuddy and catching is a hard to measure part in that). But what is also true is that pitchers throwing 90 pitches at Coors experiences the similar impact of a pitcher throwing 110-115 at most parks. The wear and tear and recovery time is simply greater. So they are smart – they have gone after guys who get quick outs in theory and trust their defense. They are also strike throwers (well, that is the issue with Morales and Nicasio), to keep innings short and keep the defense on their toes.

This is a different theory on pitching. Is it better than going with the big strike-out pitchers? Well, this is where the experts miss the “actuals” of the pitching staff. DLR has had big K years. Chacin can get guys out with the heat. Lyles was going 94-95 the other night with nasty stuff. Morales and Nicasio can easily ring up high K numbers. They just don’t…they want them to pitch longer into the game and trust the defense, and why not. Being able to get Ks is not an issue with this staff. They also get a lot of double-plays…which is worth 2-outs and is far better than a strike-out anyway. But that is the emphasis of the “experts.” What is curious is that this team has 5 guys in the minors who are highly thought of in AA and AAA, and all are big K artists. And the big reason the team has not yet called them-up is to get them pitching, using their full set of pitches, and getting outs with ground balls rather than trying to strike-out the side – which they all can.

4)      They don’t walk enough. Yes. Agreed, they should take a lot more walks. It is amazing how close many players BA and OBP is. But this team is being encouraged to be more aggressive early in the count. This is the Blake Doyle school of thinking – that you are more likely to get a fastball you can hit early in the count, as many pitchers are taught to get-ahead early with fastballs and then come back with nasty stuff that is a ball – like splitters, sliders and breaking balls. This is a change in thinking from prior years, a bit change really. But, its working not just for the Rox but for the Brewers and some of the AL teams as well. Yes, it means starters do work longer – but that is also part of the plan because it seems like everyone is bringing up young prospects to get their feet wet in the pen throwing 95-99. Which would you rather face – a starter 3rd time of some kid with pure heat and a slider somewhere in his bag?  Will the walks hurt later in the season?  We will find out. This team because they are getting hits in part because they put the ball in play. They have struck-out 229X so far this year, which is almost 50 less than the average for the National League. Getting the ball in play then gives you a chance for good things to happen, and their BA on balls in play (BABIP) and even on the road, they are not bad. Again, walks are nice, but put the ball in play and a lot of good things can happen.

5)      You cannot win playing half your games at Coors. This has already been talked about, but it misses that if you win a lot of games at Coors, you don’t have to play .600 ball on the road. Right now this team is playing very well at home, 2nd best in the league. If they can keep winning series and series at home – or .660 ball at home, then this team has to play competitive baseball on the road. And here again, how many games has this team been beaten by more than 3 runs on the road? Opening day. That is it! They are relentless on the road as at home. You do not get easy wins against the Rockies and when games are close, again other teams can make mistakes just like you do – and given how good this team plays sound baseball, who do you count on making the big mistake?  I am not saying the Rockies are going to play .500 on the road, but competitive, say .450 baseball – that is 36 or 37 games. If you figure you have to win 90 to make the playoffs, that means you play…660 baseball, which they can do. The team can play well, on the road and home. Which brings us to the big remaining factor – the bullpen.

Bullpens are the hardest thing to build.  I don’t care who you are as a GM, because year-to-year, you never know what you are going to get from 95% of relievers. No one could have predicted for example that Wilton Lopez, a sinker machine, would become a homer-run machine and fly-ball pitcher just by changing his address to Coors. And that is true around the league. So everyone is now looking for big power arms that can give them 2 or 3 batters and challenge any hitter. So, the Rox have been building all off-season a collection of interesting arms, and, they have good collection so far. From back to front this is your pen: Chris Martin (able to get up ove 95 but in the 93-94 with nice breaking balls), Nick Masset (he thows hard but still recovering from shoulder but knowing how to pitch is not a small thing), Tommy Kahnle (big arm,  probably most likely K artist, still wild), Adam Ontavino (the best slider in any pen in the NL? And a 93 to go with it), Matt Belisle (started off rough but seems to have back both his velocity -93+ – and his control and is getting ground-balls again), Boon Logan (a 3-year deal to the lefty who has battled in the AL East, and has been good so far), Rex Brothers (closer-stuff, but 8th man wildness and so far velocity issues), and lastly LaTroy Hawkins (cool as an iceberg, but his stuff so far seems up most outings but again good control).

To win at Coors they are going to need a lot of relief innings – simple as that. A lot of teams are also thinking 6 innings and relief, so Coors may only add about 10% additional innings to the pen due to those games that are…well, Coors Field games. They will also clearly need more than just the 8 pen arms, which is where being able to compete in the NL West and for a playoff spot means we will need to see a bounce-back from Chad Bettis (great arm but very hittable – I think the ball is easy to see out of his hand, but there may be other factors, including flat pitches), Wilton Lopez (I know  a lot of us would rather have Alex White’s torn ulnar collateral nerve back then Wilton, but until last year this was a plus reliever with the sinker we want at Coors, and has closed before – we need him to be back at Coors performing like he can), Rob Scahill (a 27-year old, who is on the 40, who in 23 appearances last year had a wHIP of 1.470 and is improving). Those are the clear options at AAA who are already relievers. As we have talked abuot, there could be starter arms start in the pen if the need arrives later this season. But with those 11 arms, can this team compete at Coors?  If the pen is even close to his expected performance, yes! If they are better than expected – this pen is equal to San Francisco and L.A. If the pen blows up….this team will fight to make it to 82 wins. Simple as that.

Can the team stay fresh playing at Coors? Yes. Will the high-stress innings cause the Rox to faulter on the road? Or will they be stronger for having faced what they have at home? That is of course the million dollar question. It may be the single biggest factor on whether this team can compete all season – if the starters give them enough innings at home and the pen is not over-used there, then this team will be as tough as San Francisco in 1-run games and be a team no-one wants visiting their park. But of the 6 questions, I think this is the biggest and most important point and…the one that as a fan I have the biggest doubts. If the starters and pen perform as they have the first 18 games at Coors and 18 on the road….then this team is going to be there fighting all the way to the end.

6)      Injuries and depth. To discuss this we must start with payroll. Of the teams in the NL West we have the #1 overall – the Dodgers, $235mill, #7 overall – the Giants, $154mill, #11 overall – the DBacks, $112mill, #21 overall – San Diego, $90million. The Rox are at #17, $96mill. Some of the other teams we will compete against for a playoff spot who are substantially ahead of us #3 Phils, $180mill, #9 Nationals, $134mill, #12, Red, $112mill, #13 Cardinals, $111mill, #14 Braves, $110mill, #16 Brewers, $103mill. #22 Mets, $90 mill.

I list payrolls because when you talk about injuries and depth this is where you have to start. A team like the Dodgers can go out and make a trade, and especially if they are willing to take on the full salary, get that player usually for little in terms of a prospect. Also, a team with a high payroll already has the talent probably on the team. The Dodgers have 5 OF on their 25 right now that would start for most teams, and another player in the farm system that might be worthy of starting team for many team. I was surprised that the Rockies were actually so far down in the payroll category. A few years back $90 mill would have made the Rox at top 10 team, but with the new television money and just the inflation of team values makes that not the case anymore. Look, we are never competing with the big media markets – LA, NY, Phil, and Chicago.  Simply reality. But can we be competitive with rest of the mid-market teams. We are $44 million short on the Nationals…that hurts. But we are within $20 million of the rest. Will the Monforts spend more if the chance is there to win the division? I think they have said sure, as long as it doesn’t damage the team long-term (lose a great prospect or get stuck with a horrible contract), they will act. If the crowds keep showing up, then the amount of payroll elevation is going to elevate as well (so go to the games folks!).

So, our ability to go and get a piece if needed is somewhat limited….but not entirely. But the payroll also of course has limited the depth of the club to being at the start of the season. They did spend this year to bring in a legitimate 1B – Morneau. They made risky but important trades to get Stubbs so there is a quality CF, as either a platoon or back-up, something this team didn’t have last year when Dexter was hurt. They added a lot of depth in both starting pitching (Lyles, Morales) and relief pitching (Martin and Morales again). Dan O’Dowd using trades and the one chip of Dexter and his salary was used not to get one big shinny piece somewhere. I am an admitted O’Dowd fan but he really deserves huge praise for the team he constructed this off-season.

But the depth is being tested. The team’s expected #2 and #4 starters are gone til the All-Star break. That hurts, period. Yes, the team has gotten amazing performance from Jordan Lyles and Franklin Morales (he has been either really good or bad, but he is the #5 starter on this team right now, and that isn’t bad for a #5). The longer we are running out Juan Nicasio and Franklin Morales every 5 days instead of Anderson and Chatwood, the chances of winning are lesseneed and the amount of pressure on this team’s pen are increased. Every team has injuries, especially to starters. I am not sure if any team has had every start taken by their planned starting 5, even on May 9th. I doubt it. For the Rox it is the extended time that is at issue. The good news is that Chacin is back and should once he knocks off the rust, is a big addition. The word is the team will get back Anderson and Chatwood, and they might be the equivalent of trade-deadline moves to give the team a big boost just when they need them. But what is amazing is this….before the loss in Texas this team was tied for the most wins in the major leagues and….they hadn’t touched their uber-talent in the minors and instead throwing Nicasio and Morales. Wow! Again, can it continue? We shall see. Morales’s performance in Texas was pretty good. So Nicasio and Morales might be enough to carry them through to the All-Star Break.  We may yet see one of the big five soon – probably either Tyler Matzek or Daniel Winkler (if it’s a spot start since he is more mature and refined at this point). And if there is another injury to a starter…..that will be where we see if this is 2007 or 2012.

This team’s starters are the first area of depth and injuries we think about so far. But the positional player situation is now becoming a major issue.  We all know that If Tulo or CarGo are out for an extended time this team is probably sunk – they are simply that important and Tulo is the best player in the big leagues right now.  It is true of most of the teams, aside from the Dodgers maybe, that if their best players go down they are sunk, but we have experienced it so we are more attuned to the danger.

But the small injuries are beginning to take a toll. The team’s OF depth has handled the Cuddy injury, and it was probably the single area where their team depth was most able to cover such an injury. But we have now lost Rosario for 15 days to the “viral illness.” Watching the team the past few days with Mike McKenry and you realize how big an offensive weapon Rosario is and how moving Pacheco from a nice partner situation to “the man” makes this lineup much shorter. It would be okay if the defensive production had covered the loss of offense, but so far, this has not happened.

The Rutledge injury is a similar situation. Yes we did get the bomb from Culberson, and he has played good defense in his starts. But the 2B position without Rut has no road power what-so-ever, and again makes this lineup shorter. We are now heading to Cinnci and then KC with only 6 league-average hitters in the line-up (7 depending on the DH in KC). Can you win playing like that? Against good pitching like we are going to see the next 5 days?  And, not having Rut on the bench is a removing of another bat with pop as well as speed.  In two short viral infections this team has become far weaker offensively at just the wrong time.

The team has good OF depth – CarGo, Dickerson, Stubbs, Barnes (still no power despite being a strong young-man), and Blackmon is a good group. Cuddy’s return will create some challenges. The team has been hurt by CarGo being less than 100%. His knee has taken away his speed (steals and therefore pressure on the defense) and hurt his defense (his jumps clearly show that knee is not 100%). They need a nearly 100% CarGo to compete with LA. A 90% CarGo is great…but not enough to compete with the Dodgers and Giants.

The team really needs Nolan Arenado and Justin Morneau to stay healthy. The final game in Texas with Justin’s neck out of whack, made the line-up they put out really weak, and the defense much worse. There are not players down on the farm who can really allow this team to handle losing either player for a 15 day stint. Yes, Ryan Wheeler can “fill” the role, but he has neither the D or the O to keep the team from becoming shorter in line-up and much worse on D. Kyle Parker might give enough O if Justin were hurt…but the defense would suffer greatly.

So beyond Tulo, a loss to Areanado and Morneau would probably be destructive of this team, period. I love CarGo and he might well win the MVP this year or next. But they have enough other parts and pieces to cover his absence. It would hurt, but they could probably for 30 days cover his contributions well enough. It is somewhat analogous to DJ at 2nd. His D is great, but they can get close to it with Culberson, and the offense is actually better if Rut is there or down at AA Featherston should the need arise. No team wants injuries – and the starters are important to their long-term success. But there are places they can work with them better than others. Hopefully the team can avoid any DL stints beyond 15, and can keep the core group together. They have already faced a lot of injuries, and were tied for the most wins. So, at this point, the team has had enough depth and has performed well enough. So, can they stay in the playoff races with their depth and injuries? So far, so good.  But they are one Tulo or Morneau injury from probably falling far back.

So, what is the conclusion (as if you don’t know coming from me?)

So, in conclusion, are the experts right? Are the Rockies just pretenders (and cannot even go and sign Drew and Morales to make them legit contenders)?  Probably won’t surprise you but I would say, no! And here is why:

We are 20% of the way through the season. There are really only 3 players that have performed so over their head as to be asking for a serious fall-back. Charlie Blackmon has already started, down into the .330s, but continuing to hit lefties surprisingly well. But while most experts believe the Rox will still play well at home, it is the road they see a big fall-off at. Well, on the road Blackmon has not been much of an offensive force, with only a .697 OPS and no homers. So, Blackmon really has not been that key to this team’s success on the road and it is not necessy he draw back much at home (maybe in power). The second player is Tulo, who yes, is playing at home as no player ever has. But again, on the road, his .895 OPS is not out of line for his career, and there is nothing in his history that would lead us to expect a huge fallback at home. Finally there is Jordan Lyles. Yes, he is having a great season, and he will give up more runs at home,  but he will likely continue to have strong support at home as well. On the road, his 3.91 ERA is even a little high for what his prospect status would have forecasted. On the road, like Tulo and Blackmon, he is playing about what you expect. With all the Rockies we expect some decline towards a norm, but that norm is always going to be high, and a small reduction in their performance still leaves plenty of room for this team to win regularly at home. They have buffer at home and on the road they are actually playing about what you expect. Doesn’t sound like a team that is going to fall apart from that perspective.

They still have their pitching depth in the minors to support them along with returning health from good pitchers with established histories. Their pen seems built for the long-haul, as long as Coors doesn’t go 2012. If they can avoid key injuries at 1B, 3B, C (extended time), and SS – they are prepared to be tough all year.

If the Nationals go ahead and win their division as expected, that leaves the Marlins, Mets, Phils, and Braves to compete with for a playoff spot. All these teams are as flawed if not more so, than the Rox. The Marlins are in the same boat as the Rox, so we won’t talk about them. The Mets have no depth, lots of empty spots in the lineup and their pitching is still a year away from making a contribution. They will be tough to play, such as when the Rox go to CitiField, but not a team that appears ready to compete all year long. The Phils are old, and injuries are going to come – you have to believe it. Their pitching has been good, and if they get one good year from the aging core, they could be the most dangerous of the teams  on the list….if a team with a lot of 30s can stay healthy. Hasn’t happened since 2011. The Braves have done a great job recovering from the pitching injuries in the spring, but have begun to return to the mean. The bigger issue with the Braves is their offense, which is oriented towards walks, homers and living with the strikeouts. This year the walks have not come as they have been swinging more and early. If their offense gets untracked and they can continue to get even 85% of the pitching they got in April, I would make them the favorite for one of the remaining playoff spots.

In the NL Central its harder to forecast. I continue to believe the Cardinals are deeper and better than the Brewers. Assuming their talent eventually catches the Brewers and wins the division, that leaves several good teams. The Pirates do not appear to be the same team this year. They lost Burnett, which really hurt their rotation and Liriano hasn’t been the same guy since. While Garret Cole is a genuine stud (if Grey becomes our version of Cole we will be very happy) their rotation is not as good overall as the one that Colorado should put out the 2nd half of the season.  The Brewers are pitching so well that their worst starter is the one they gave a big deal to this off-season, Matt Garza (someone I was hoping we would pursue – oops). We know they play good defense and have good offense. I put them in the group before the season who would not be competiting for a playoff spot, but they are better than I expected and if you pitch well, have a good pen, catch the ball and have offense…that makes you a dangerous team. The Reds are in a similar boat, with the exception that their pen has been poor to start the year….but when you lose your ace closer to a head injury, that isn’t a surprise. The only question with the Reds is will they have enough offense? They counted on Billy Hamilton being better than this so far, but he should break out at some point (I am a fan, I miss the stolen base), but their actual offensive is only 7th in the NL, playing in a big offensive park. They have to score more runs to stay in the race.

Assuming that either the Dodgers or Giants wins the division (just saying), can the Rox stay competitive with the other team (the Padres do not score enough and the DBacks don’t pitch enough to be included in this conversation, regardless of how close they might be at this point). What is weird about the three teams is that if you put a ranking of 1 to 3 for each team for each of the categories – starting, relief, defense, offense, bench and prospects available, and intangibles, you would probably end up with the total score of the three being very close to one another. So, yes, the Rockies (assuming no major injuries) can compete with those two teams.

This is the most even and deep I can remember the NL ever being before in my life – which makes great baseball. Of the group – Nationals, Braves, Mets, Marlins, Phils, Cards, Brewers, Reds, Pirates, Giants, Dodgers and Rockies – is there a team that is so much better than the rest or the Rockies? Is there a team that the Rockies cannot compete against?  No.

So, as you might guess, can this team stay in the race until the end? The answer is yes!  But I wonder how long before the experts realize that the Rockies are a different team. Probably October 1, when they are in the playoffs.

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